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Broken Rhythms explores chronic pain in new production, Knotted

Knotted looks at those among us who live life in chronic pain — from those who may have a painful knot in their back, to those who tie their stomach in knots due to stress.
Knotted, the new production from Victoria’s Broken Rhythms dance company HÉLÈNE CYR


Where: McPherson Playhouse, 3 Centennial Sq.

When: Friday, April 12, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $48.25-$64 from the Royal McPherson box office (250-386-6121) or

Broken Rhythms has staged the majority of its productions in places like the Metro Theatre and Intrepid Studio, rooms which are effective but modest in terms of their seating capacity.

A larger venue was necessary for its upcoming production. Not only does the premiere of Knotted come after a period of growth for the non-profit company, its move into the McPherson Playhouse for the first time this weekend was an important step philosophically.

“Tomorrow, anything could happen,” said artistic and executive director Dyana Sonik-Henderson, who founded the company in 2011. “So we thought, let’s do this jump now. I knew this show was going to be special, so it’s now or never.”

With guest choreography from Candace Bruce, and featured appearances by members of the Victoria Academy of Ballet, Knotted looks at those among us who live life in chronic pain — from those who may have a painful knot in their back, to those who tie their stomach in knots due to stress.

To further illustrate the concept, many dancers in the show will wear oversized “knotted” sweaters. Medical tape fastened to others will illuminate their respective injuries. “We’re not hiding the fact they are working through certain injuries,” Sonik-Henderson said.

“It’s a reference to something being broken, and knotted together again, to create something new. The knots can sometimes make things a little tight, but also stronger.”

During the creation of Knotted, Sonik-Henderson said her own chronic pain — the result of longstanding hypermobility and decades of dance-related injuries — made sitting difficult. The stress of writing a new production eventually threw her back out, which was something of a lightbulb moment during the genesis of the piece, she admitted.

The strength of seeing her own dancers create beauty through movement, while enduring arthritis, ankle injuries, soft tissue damage and the like — that is the core sentiment behind Knotted, she said.

And Sonik-Henderson is speaking from experience.

“I knew this premise and idea was going to resonate with a lot of people. I was in pain at the time, and that was something I was very familiar with. I realized the entire show in that one moment of inspiration.”

Broken Rhythms has produced everything from Seven, a contemporary dance creation based on psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ seven stages of grief philosophy, to Into the WIRE, a post-apocalyptic piece about survival, social isolation, and environmental deterioration.

Last year, the company staged Chiaro:Scuro, a film noir-style performance that explored darkness and light. Knotted is no less provocative than what has come before. Sonik-Henderson’s intention was to showcase dancers in a way they would be comfortable with, injuries included.

“We have quite a few dancers who have come back [for Knotted] after dancing with us early on, who thought they wouldn’t be able to ever dance again due to certain injuries,” she said.

“We have an open dialogue. We are not going to put them in a place that is unsafe, At times, we will change the choreography to accommodate any type of injury or pain. That is not common. In the dance world, if you can’t do the move you’re out — that is the underlying understanding.”

Broken Rhythms has taken several of its productions on the road in previous years, winning Fringe Festival awards across the country. Sonik-Henderson said Knotted may stick closer to home. “It’s open-ended, but it is very specific to this cast. When you create work like that, I don’t think it would look the same if we brought it on the road.”

There is too much at stake with Knotted — personally and professionally — to play it any other way, Sonik-Henderson said. “The injuries that might be causing my chronic pain, I can remember them but I wouldn’t necessarily want to change the experience. As my body moves, and feels pain and joy, and exhaustion and happiness, that is all part of the story of my body.

“The way I communicate is through the movement of my body. That is the only way I know how to create.”

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